A Black Day in Brussels
March 22nd was a black day in Brussels, a black day in Belgium, a black day for Europe. The carnage and loss of life in Zaventum airport, and at Maalbeek Metro station near the parliament, were horrific, and we stand in sympathy with all those who lost their lives or suffered injuries in these events. It is particularly shocking that the perpetrators of these crimes appear to imagine that they are acting in the name of their god.
It is also a major concern that ISIS was able to mount this multi-pronged attack in Brussels just a few days after their leading figure in Brussels, Salah Abdeslam, was arrested, and many assumed that their network had been rolled up.
I was already at my desk in the parliament when the first bombs went off at the airport, so I have no first-hand story to tell, and picked up my news as almost everyone else did, through social and mainstream media. Nonetheless I had many requests for comment from East Midlands regional media through the day. My staffer Rachael had a closer call, though thank heaven she came through safely. She was on a train approaching Maalbeek station when she heard a loud bang, although she did not immediately recognise it as a bomb. Her train stopped in the tunnel, and she and other passengers had to walk back down the tracks and to exit at the previous station. Naturally she was very shocked, but she gamely continued her journey to the parliament.
There have been many on social media who have angrily insisted that we “should not make political capital out of a tragedy”. Allison Pearson of the Telegraph was widely attacked for her Tweet: “Brussels, de facto capital of the EU, is also the jihadist capital of Europe. And the Remainers dare to say we’re safer in the EU! #Brexit” (which I personally thought made a very fair point).
Yes of course we should have a proper respect for the victims of the tragedy, but it would be irresponsible not to try to learn the lessons of the event. The Remainians will argue that close involvement in EU police structures and Europol are vital in the war against terror. I suggest they’re wrong, for several reasons:
1 To a considerable extent, Europol duplicates facilities available through Interpol
2 Europol is perfectly happy and accustomed to working with police forces in neighbouring countries
3 Despite Europol, there was a clear breakdown in police communication between France and Belgium which allowed prime Paris suspect Salah Abdeslam to slip through border controls and escape from Paris to Brussels, where he was arrested only recently.
The fact is that Schengen and open borders have brought terrorism to our doorstep. You cannot have security with open borders. You cannot fight terrorism with free movement of Jihadists and Kalashnikovs.
Meantime a Telegraph headline reads “‘Questioning EU’s open borders is inappropriate’, says Cameron”. Sorry Dave. It’s not just appropriate. It’s essential.
Major snag for EU Referendum date
On a lighter note, a major snag has arisen with the date of the EU Referendum, June 23rd. It clashes with the Glastonbury Festival, scheduled from June 22nd to 26th. This could keep thousands away from the polling booths. But in a responsible and public-spirited gesture, the organisers have urged Festival-goers to plan ahead and get their postal votes registered. Good advice for all who’re planning an early summer break, whether or not in Glastonbury.
Ed Miliband to bat for Labour in EU Referendum
Ed Miliband has come out fighting for the Remain Campaign in the Labour Party. Whether that will represent an asset, in overall terms, to the Remain side remains to be seen. Indeed we now have two former Labour Leaders, Miliband and Blair, both committed to Remain, yet both rather damaged goods.
It’s really rather sad that those campaigning to stay in the EU seem forced to talk their country down. Miliband said it is “simply a fantasy” to suggest the UK could confront “the great causes of the 21st century” outside the EU.
Basically they saying we’re just not good enough, not strong enough, not big enough to manage by ourselves. But hang on a minute. There are best part of 200 countries in the world, and we have the fifth largest economy – and we’re “not big enough to confront the great causes etc etc?”. If so, then practically no one is. Do you hear Switzerland or Singapore whining that they’re too small to cope in the modern world? No you don’t. They have a bit more sense, and a bit more self-confidence. And maybe we’d have more confidence without the Moaning Minnies in the Remain Camp.
And of course we won’t be “on our own”. We’ll be permanent members of the UN Security Council. On the G7 and the G20. NATO. The Commonwealth. The OECD. The OSCE. The WTO. The World Bank. We will address the world’s problems with our allies, and we are very strongly placed to do so. So let’s show some back-bone. Of course we’re big enough. Of course we’re good enough. Let’s get out there and say so.